Kodiaks bolster goalie position
Camrose Kodiaks goalie Griffin Bowerman watches the play against the Spruce Grove Saints during Alberta Junior Hockey League action in Camrose on Sunday. Spruce Grove won 3-2. Josh Aldrich/ Camrose Canadian
Luke Lush just wanted a fresh start close to home.
The Sherwood Park native was granted his wish by the La Ronge when they dealt their reigning team MVP to the Camrose Kodiaks last week.
His addition turns the position from one with a lot of question marks to potentially one of strength for the Alberta Junior Hockey League club. Lush joins 17-year-old Griffin Bowerman who had earned the No. 1 position with a strong showing over the last few weeks.
Lush is just looking for the opportunity to show what he can do with a winning program.
“It felt great to be back out there,” said Lush, who stopped all seven shots he faced over the final 27 minutes after replacing Bowerman in net in Sunday’s 3-2 loss. “I had a couple of blunders that gave the team a scare, but luckily nothing came of it. I’m just getting relaxed and comfortable here so I can play to my full ability.”
Both goalies saw action this past week as Bowerman started all three games, a 2-1 overtime to the Calgary Mustangs on Thursday, a 2-1 overtime win over the Lloydminster Bobcats on Saturday, and was pulled after three goals to the Saints.
Head coach and general manager Boris Rybalka liked what he saw out of his 19-year-old keeper.
“People say he didn’t have to make any big saves … Exactly, because he’s in position,” said Rybalka of his six-foot-three goalie. “If you’re doing your job you shouldn’t have to make those big amazing saves. He just got his body in front of it and that’s his style of game.”
It was the first action for Lush in almost a month. He requested a trade after 10 games this season and was facing another season in the Saskatchewan Junior Hockey League cellar. There were several players who requested trades at the same time and Lush saw the writing on the wall.
The Ice Wolves are in a seeming perpetual rebuilding mode, finishing last year with a 6-47-1-4 record. Lush was one of the team’s few bright spots as he was pelted with shots on a nightly basis, averaging 45 shots against per 60 minutes. In the process he posted a 4.80 goals against average and a 0.895 save percentage.
Lush is familiar with many of his new teammates, having played or trained previously with Ryan Hartman, Kyler Kupka, Jacob Kendall, Nick Mantai, and Cale Chalifoux.
He joins Bowerman in net as a steadying influence for the young goalie.
Bowerman wrested the starter’s job away from Pavlisin this month after taking big steps in his game since training camp. Bowerman has started the last nine games for the Kodiaks, posting a 4-6-1 record over that time. However, it is hard to point a finger at the young back stop for many of those losses. In fact both his goals against average and save percentage have improved greatly over that time. He now has an overall record of 5-8-2 and a 3.35 G.A.A. and a 0.894 save percentage.
He was given the opportunity to start against the Brooks Bandits on Nov. 10 as the Kodiaks were trying to snap their extended losing skid. He came through with a 3-2 win, stopping 35 shots in the process, and he did not surrender the net again until Sunday afternoon.
“It’s a huge confidence booster to know that (Rybalka) thinks that I can play against one of the best teams in the league to try and end a streak,” said Bowerman. “It means he has a lot of trust in me and a lot of faith in me.”
Rybalka has been impressed with the improvement he has seen from the Calgary product.
“He’s big, he sees the ice well … he fights through the screens, he competes, he puts the puck in the corners, he controls his rebounds, he plays the puck very well, I think there’s a bright future ahead for this young man,” said Rybalka. “Those are all details that a lot of goaltenders … really can’t do and he does a lot of them quite well at the age of 17.”
Bowerman is not taking the addition of a veteran goalie as a slight. He understands the needs of the team and this as another challenge for him to tackle as he develops as a rookie goalie.
“We already have a healthy relationship, but I think it is going to be a good battle for the net. I want to keep it, I don’t want to give it up, but at the same time he’s going to be working to push me to get the net for himself … we’re both going to bring the best out in ourselves.”
The Kodiaks have an important two game series with the Canmore Eagles (11-15-1) in Canmore this weekend. The Kodiaks are in last place in the Viterra AJHL South Division with 22 points, but the Eagles and Olds Grizzlys (11-17-1) are both only one point ahead. A sweep of the Eagles and the Kodiaks will potentially be in sixth place. On Tuesday they are in Drayton Valley to play the Thunder (6-23-0), another game the Kodiaks need to win.